How should pointe shoes be prepared?
After her teacher has approved the shoes (for beginners), it is time to sew on the ribbons that secure them to the feet.
Pointe shoes are tied onto the feet using two ribbons, which cross over the instep (top of the foot), wrap around the ankle and are tied on the inside of the ankle (never on the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle). The teacher will show students how to tie the ribbons.
Ribbons are part of the traditional look of pointe shoes. Crossing and wrapping them around the ankle distributes the “pull” of the shoe so that it is less likely to slip off during pointe work.
Most dancers also sew elastics to their pointe shoes. The primary purpose of the elastics is to hold the heel more securely to the foot, but they can also provide added support throughout the shoe. Some dancers use a single elastic from one side of the heel to the other. Others use double, crisscrossed elastics.
As a dancer becomes more experienced, she often learns how to position the ribbons and elastics more precisely, according to her unique foot shape and technical needs. Ribbons and elastics can be sewn so that, in addition to keeping the shoe in place, they draw the sole toward the foot in a way that follows the curve of the arch. This provides added security and highlights the beauty of the arch. Dancers often also learn the best position for the elastics so that they will be hidden by the ribbons.
Properly fit pointe shoes require little or no other preparation. Professional dancers may have elaborate rituals for preparing their shoes, but beginners should never alter their shoes in any way unless their teacher or fitter recommends it.
Banging or bending the shoes, or attempting to modify their design, can compromise their structure in potentially dangerous ways. The break-in process should be accomplished through exercises in pointe class.